In practice a lot of problems and struggles might be boiled down to difficulty with decision making. Deciding about big and little things can be hard, for obvious and maybe not so obvious reasons. I have come across a number of tools and hacks ithrough my practice that I feel are of benefit and ought be consolidated.
Making decisions is hard. Making hard decisions is harder. Sometimes, the stuckness comes because we think it’s hard and it’s maybe not. This podcast from Ted Radio Hour on decision making is spot on. Here are the five steps of decision making from the expert (i.e. Ruth Chang, Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers):
- Determine what matters and write it down.
- Ask what really matters, and ask yourself if you missed anything on the first step.
- Recognize and acknowledge that it’s a hard choice (hint: it’s hard if there’s not a right or best, no matter if it’s big or not so big).
- Commit to a choice. Select an option and stick with it. Create the reason to pursue that avenue.
- The consequence of this commitment is identity creation; you become your truest Self through the process of decision and commitment.
First of all, I love a list. Second, so do a lot of people. Let’s have a closer look at this process. How do you know if something matters? I recommend exploring your values, starting with a list and sorting through it until you’ve narrowed it down enough to let the subset guide your process. Explore what motivates you in general, and how you will feel if you choose one option over another by thinking ahead. Does this impact how you sleep at night? Will it affect your self-esteem? This leads into the second step as well, as you need to be able to assess what is actually important and not get sucked into the myth that everything is a big deal.
The third step is basically about validation. Acknowledging to yourself that this is hard will help clear some space to actually make the decision. It’s important to recognize that the difficulty comes not necessarily because the stakes are high; rather, it’s because there isn’t an obvious best choice. Or any best choice, really. As in the case of what to have for dinner. You might base it on what’s available, cost, nutrition, or what your friends want. None of those motivators are necessarily better than the others, so you select your choice based on values (if applicable) and how you want to feel after.
I came across this article from mindbodygreen.com and felt like the energy was right on target for the third and fourth step. The message is about acceptance and what do you want to say yes to rather than no? I like that perspective. It is such a more affirming way to view our choices and can empower rather than make us feel overwhelmed by options.
As you practice the decision making process, you are creating your identity. Finding and solidifying the edges of your Self make deciding things significantly more streamlined. Sarah Blondin has lovely meditations on Insight Timer, one of my favorite apps for guided meditations as well as customizable timers. In Discovering Your Intrinsic Self, she gently directs the listener to consider that they are their own answers. We can look inward and get all the information we need rather than seeking external direction all the time. Her voice is soothing and affirming, encouraging you to live into your most joyful existence based on being connected to your internal self.
You are equipped with everything you need to make decisions. Hopefully some of these tools are also helpful. What else has been beneficial in your decision making life?